Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera made a campaign stop on behalf of Gov. Rick Scott in Zephyrhills Sept. 22, speaking in front of the Conservative Club of East Pasco.
Throughout his stump speech, Lopez-Cantera attacked Scott’s Democratic opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, but also made some other claims as well.
For the complete story of Lopez-Cantera’s campaign stop, read the Oct. 1 edition of The Laker/Lutz News.
“The high-speed rail was a project that is about $2 billion, but that would not have covered the cost of the project. And you know who would’ve been on the hook to cover the cost of the project? All of us.
“Look at California. They took the federal money, and they have not laid one inch of rail in their state for high-speed rail. They’re hundreds of millions of dollars in the hole. They raised the gas tax 6 cents just to cover the expense.
“And that is still not going to cover the cost, that is projected to be around $100 billion.”
President Obama announced construction of high-speed rail routes in several states, including Florida, in 2009 as part of his overall stimulus package to help jumpstart the nation’s lagging economy.
Florida was set to receive more than $2 billion, while California was gearing up to receive $8 billion in federal funds. However, while the federal dollars were expected to cover the cost of the Florida route’s first phase between Tampa and Orlando, the California contribution was just a fraction of the $68 billion needed to build the entire line in the state, that had been planned for decades.
The California project took a big hit last January, however, when a state judge there ruled the government could not sell billions of dollars in bonds that would’ve helped finance the project, according to the Washington Post.
In August, the New York Times called the high-speed rail project a failure, claiming the Obama administration spent $11 billion on the project, with nothing to show for it. However, Michael Grunwald from Time magazine disputed that report, saying just $2.4 billion has been spent nationwide, and that major construction of the first high-speed rail lines are just beginning after years of planning.
“In the next two years, you can expect another $1 million in tax cuts, and this is not a Charlie Crist rhetoric tax cut. Another $120 million will be cut in taxes if you have a cellphone. Your cellphone bill will go down.
“And we’re going to eliminate the manufacturing sales tax once and for all, so that we can continue to attract manufacturing jobs to our state, because those are good, high-paying jobs.
“We are going to get a constitutional amendment passed that if your (home) value does not go up, your property taxes will not go up. It is not fair.”
The Tax Foundation, a non-partisan research think tank based in Washington, D.C., has called some of these policies a “mixed bag.”
The constitutional amendment, for example, would require the approval of 60 percent of voters. At the same time, this would affect local government revenue, not state government revenue, said Lyman Stone of the Tax Foundation.
“Restrictions on property tax assessments can reduce local taxation, but only if there are also restrictions on property tax rates, effective standardization of tax-assessing practices, and strict limits on other local revenue sources,” Stone said. “Otherwise, if property taxes are ineffectively capped, localities will just raise the same revenues through less transparent means, like excessive fees, fines, or budget gimmicks that just push expenses further out.”
However, in the same analysis, Stone praised the proposed reduction in cellphone taxes. Florida, he said, has the fourth highest taxes on cellphone usage, and would bring the state closer to norms experienced elsewhere in the country.
Drug testing those people receiving state funds “was passed in 2011, and has been challenged by liberal groups since then. We are still appealing it. There is an injunction in place that doesn’t allow (the state to enforce drug-testing) until it makes its way through the courts.”
A federal judge last December struck down the law forcing welfare recipients to be drug tested, saying the law violated the Constitutional protection against unreasonable searches. It was similar to a ruling made in Michigan in 2003 that put many proposed drug-testing policies on hold for several years.
The suit that led to the decision was put together by the American Civil Liberties Union, a group generally described as “liberal,” on behalf of a U.S. Navy veteran, Luis Lebron, who had filed for public assistance and was asked to submit to testing.
The New York Times reported late last year the program cost far more than it saved, finding less than 3 percent of those tested with positive results for narcotics.
“We talked about how we increased funding for education the last three years, and how Gov. Scott was a champion of a $480 million pay raise (for teachers). That was not a bonus but a pay raise.”
The raises, according to Scott, would amount to $2,500 per teacher, and up to $3,500 for those deemed “highly effective.” However, while the Legislature did approve a measure that would make an additional $480 million available to school districts, it’s still up to county school boards — not the states — on how that money will be distributed, if at all.
Also, the allocated money is not just for teachers in the classroom. It’s also for guidance counselors, social workers, psychologists, librarians, principals and assistant principals, according to the bill, which means at least some of the money is earmarked for those who aren’t in front of students.
Scott has pushed for increased education funding in recent years, but that came after he slashed the education budget in 2011 by $1.3 billion. In fact, despite his most recent increase, education funding per student is still below the levels under Crist in 2007, according to Politifact.
“Charlie (Crist) doesn’t want anyone to remember that he was governor for four years, and what the state looked like when he took it over. It had a 3.5 percent unemployment rate, and when he left, it was much higher. He is going to say it was the global recession, and that it would’ve happened to anybody. That is not true. The same time that Florida lost 830,000 jobs, there was another governor who focused on jobs, and they added 200,000 jobs. And that was Texas.”
Crist moved into the governor’s mansion in January 2007, enjoying an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent. However, by that July, it had climbed to 4 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As the Great Recession went into full swing, unemployment would rise to 4.8 percent after Crist’s first full year in office, and then 8.8 percent after his second.
Florida’s unemployment rate peaked at 11.4 percent in December 2009, and started to drop by April 2010.
When Scott took office in January 2011, the unemployment rate already was declining, dropping to 10.9 percent. It would take nearly three years for Scott to see unemployment rates drop below 7 percent, which it finally did in September 2013, but has plateaued around the 6.3 percent mark since last December.
In terms of what states weathered the recession better than others, Texas did gain attention for its job growth. However, many of those jobs, according to news reports, came in the oil and natural gas industries, which took only a minor hit during the recession.
Florida, on the other hand, was hit hard by the crash of the housing market, losing many jobs in that field — something Texas was able to absorb.
Last July, NPR reviewed job growth in all 50 states between January 2008 and May 2014, using data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During that time, North Dakota had the biggest job growth at 21.2 percent, followed by Texas with 8.4 percent — both taking advantage of growth in the petroleum industry.
In total, 18 states and the District of Columbia saw positive job growth since the time the recession was in full swing, but none of them are Florida. The Sunshine State is ranked 38th in job growth since January 2008, tied with Maine, showing it’s still short of reaching its pre-recession levels by 1.7 percent.
Of the 19 states and territories that have seen positive growth since the recession, eight are led by Democrats, and seven by Republicans. Two other states — Oklahoma and Iowa — went from Democrat to Republican governors during that time span, while two others — Minnesota and California — went from Republican to Democrat.
“The first two years, he was chasing the vice presidency and not focusing on the state. The second two years, he was running for a United States Senate seat.
“And he is the first governor in the history of Florida to not run for re-election.”
Charlie Crist was touring and campaigning with John McCain after the U.S. Senator won the Republican nomination in 2008, and many news outlets said Crist was one of the contenders to possibly accompany McCain on the presidential ticket, especially since that could help deliver Florida in the presidential election.
McCain, however, chose Sarah Palin instead, and would go on to lose to Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the November race.
Less than a year later, Republican Mel Martinez resigned from his U.S. Senate seat some four years after winning it, and Crist appointed his chief of staff, George LeMieux — who many largely saw as a placeholder for Crist — and Crist soon after announced his intentions to run for the seat.
When it became obvious Marco Rubio was going to win the Republican nomination two years later for the senate seat, Crist would stay in the race as an independent, eventually losing to Rubio in 2011.
Crist, however, is not the first governor in history to not run for re-election. Assuming Lopez-Cantera was only referring to sitting governors eligible to seek re-election (which would exclude the likes of Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush), C. Farris Bryant chose to serve just one term as governor, and did not seek re-election in 1964. He would be succeeded by another Democrat, W. Haydon Burns, in a two-year term in 1965.